Waveform analyzers must closely match specific test and measurement needs of aerospace and defense applications

By Courtney Howard

When considering test and measurement equipment, not all waveform analyzers are the same, and so professionals should carefully consider the specifications and capabilities of the models available and weigh them against the specific needs of their military and aerospace application.

First, it is important to understand the relationship between the waveform to be analyzed and the specifications of the equipment performing the signal analysis, explains Darren McCarthy, RF technical marketing manager at Tektronix in Beaverton, Ore. The most common method of analyzing modern waveforms is the use of vector signal analyzers, or fast Fourier transform (FFT)-based analysis techniques. “It is important that all the waveform information is captured within the communication channel for a finite period of time; however, most dynamic range specifications on spectrum analyzers are represented by swept analysis techniques and have no correlation to the vector analysis applications,” McCarthy describes.

The system’s ability to capture and analyze not only repetitive signals, but also intermittent or time-varying signals is another major consideration when selecting the optimal waveform analyzer. “The true power of a waveform analyzer comes with its ability to not only analyze what signal(s) is supposed to be present, but to also analyze the signals that are not supposed to be there,” says Sue Guzman, Aeroflex Cupertino general manager and vice president of Aeroflex Test Solutions in Cupertino, Calif. “Critical to this ability is the need for simultaneously displaying the captured waveform in all 3 domains: time, frequency, and modulation.”

When selecting a signal analyzer to evaluate waveforms, consider RF frequency, information or acquisition bandwidth, and signal fidelity (dynamic range) within the acquisition bandwidth and at the frequency of interest, McCarthy advises. “You need to be able to tune to the frequency of interest,” he says. Information bandwidth, on the other hand, relates to the instantaneous FFT bandwidth that can be continually processed for analysis. “If your waveform hops over multiple channels, and you are interested in the analysis of the waveform during the hopping transitions, your information bandwidth of your signal analyzer must be able to seamlessly capture the entire hopping transitions over multiple channels.”

Signal fidelity also needs to be considered under the representative waveform conditions. “At microwave frequencies, in order to enable wide instantaneous bandwidths, many spectrum analyzers need to remove preselection filters that limit bandwidth and distort the incoming signal,” McCarthy cautions. “During these conditions, the analyzer specifications no longer apply!”

Today’s technologies provide a much more capable platform for waveform analyzers, including wider instantaneous bandwidths, much higher speed, much deeper signal memory, and many more software analysis features that at one time only were available as post-processing capabilities on computers separate from the waveform analyzer itself,” Guzman admits. “The instantaneous bandwidth available determines the fastest pulses that can be analyzed or determines the widest frequency signal which can be measured,” she describes.

The system should offer modularity, enabling upgrades as better performing analog-to-digital converters (A/D converters) and faster processors become available, without causing the user to purchase an entirely new system each time, Guzman adds. The breadth of analysis capability present in the software/firmware of the system, especially the variety of data visualization options and the number of different demodulation types supported, is key, she says.

“Software option flexibility enables the analyzer to be used for multiple purposes: phase noise testing, signal source tester, peak/channel power meter, modulation analyzer, oscilloscopes, and frequency counter,” McCarthy explains, describing the new Tektronix RSA6120A. As a result, such systems—capable of many different automated scalar and vector pulse analysis parameters, for example—can replace several instruments usually required for accurate pulse performance characterization.

The depth and speed of the signal memory available, which determines how long of a waveform recording can be taken or determines how well intermittent signals can be captured, is another important consideration, Guzman describes. “Longer waveform recordings capture a more complete picture of the signal or environment being tested.”

In short, says McCarthy, the measurement utility and performance can give you the confidence you need to design the most advanced radio and radar applications. “Read the specifications, and ask how they apply to your waveform analysis needs,” he recommends.

When choosing a waveform analyzer, do not lock yourself into a corner, Guzman cautions. “Select one that has the hardware modularity to adapt to newer A/D converter and processing capability, and one that has the software/firmware architecture that allows the system to easily add new demodulation or analysis functions. You need to invest in a test solution that can grow with you, not one that traps you in the past.”

Company Information

Aeroflex Inc., Plainview, N.Y., 516-694-6700, www.aeroflex.com

Agilent Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., 408-345-8886, www.agilent.com

Anritsu Company, Morgan Hill, Calif., 408-778-2000, www.us.anritsu.com

Keithley Instruments Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, 440-248-0400, www.keithley.com

LeCroy Corp., Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., 845-425-2000, www.lecroy.com

National Instruments Corp., Austin, Texas, 800-531-5066, www.ni.com

Rohde & Schwarz North America, Irvine, Calif., 949-885-7000, www.rohde-schwarz.com/USA

Tektronix Inc., Beaverton, Ore., 800-833-9200, www.tek.com

Subscribe to Avionics Intelligence


Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Low Viscosity, One Part Cyanoacrylate Is Non-Toxic and Meets ISO 10993-5 Specifications

Master Bond MB250NT is widely used for a variety of applications ranging from repair to high speed producti...

Thermally Conductive, Two Component Epoxy Passes USP Class VI Tests and ISO 10993-5 Specifications

With biocompatibility and cytotoxicity certifications, Master Bond EP21AOLV-2Med is often selected for bond...

One Component, Snap Cure Epoxy Features High Strength Properties

Suitable for a variety of applications in the electronic, aerospace and OEM industries, Master Bond EP3SP5F...

One Part Epoxy Resists up to 500°F and Meets NASA Low Outgassing Specifications

Master Bond Supreme 12AOHT-LO is a one component epoxy for a variety of bonding and sealing applications in...

VICTORY Shared Processing, Fire Control Computer, and Switch for Ground Vehicles Introduced by Curtiss-Wright

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has introduced a new fully i...

CURTISS-WRIGHT CONGRATULATES NORTHROP GRUMMAN ON SUCCESSFUL FIRST FLIGHT OF SECOND MQ-4C TRITON UAS

Curtiss-Wright Corporation’s Defense Solutions division applauds Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) o...

Curtiss-Wright’s New Rugged Mobile IP Router Subsystem Features an Integrated Cisco® 5915 ESR Router

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division, a Cisco® Systems Solution T...

GE Announces First Sub-Credit Card-Sized Multi-Function High Definition (HD) Video Tracker

HUNTSVILLE, AL.— OCTOBER 13, 2014—GE’s Intelligent Platforms business today announced at AUSA (October 13-...

Webcasts

Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Design Strategy Considerations for DO-178C Certified Multi-core Systems

Join Wind River to learn how system architecture and design choices can minimize your DO-178C certification challenges.

Sponsored by:

Flying, Sailing or Driving - The Rugged, Embedded Intel-based Server that goes where you need it!Flying Sailing or Driving

Leveraging the power of server-class processors is no longer relegated to the confines of data centers. Through several innovations, Mercury Systems has ruggedized Intel’s server-class chips for deployment. ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

April 2015
Volume 26, Issue 4
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE